Tales of heroism and tragedy were recollected at the ceremony to mark the 90th anniversary of the Redding Pit disaster.
It was nine decades ago to the day yesterday when 40 men perished in one of Scotland’s worst mining incidents highlighting the terrible and hazardous conditions faced by miners of the era.
The Sir William Wallace Grand Lodge of Free Colliers held its annual remembrance of the disaster last Saturday at the monument in Redding where more than 100 people, including descendants of victims and survivors, turned out to pay their respects.
Among them was Free Collier Robert Jack who laid this year’s wreath and spoke of his grandfather, James Jack, who was one of five lucky men rescued after spending nine days underground after an inrush of water flooded No. 23 Pit trapping 66 men.
Robert (67), from Maddiston, also worked in the mines in the Braes and comes from a long line of hard-working miners from the area.
He said: “My great grandfather William Hunter worked underground for 62 years from nine years of age when the Free Colliers was only one year old and that wasn’t even a record. It was typical for children to be working in the pits.
“My grandfather James Jack was a miner when he was 12 and is listed in the 1901 Census as a 15-year-old miner. He died in 1930 when he was 44. Whatever he had, he had something. He had some grit.
“He was a shy man but he received three Military Medals during his brave service in the Great War. He was honoured at Redding Cross for the first one in September 1917 and was back on the front line four weeks later.
“After the pit disaster he went back to work as a miner and he and ther colleagues went round the local dance halls telling people about their experiences and raising money for the disaster fund for the families. People were still writing about him 20 years after death.”
He added: “The annual commemoration is very important to us and the community. During the ceremony on Saturday I looked over and saw my brother James who had a tear in his eye.”
Last Saturday’s service was carried out by Reverend Ray Williamson who said the 40 men and the families would be “forever in our hearts”.
Provost Pat Reid, a staunch supporter of the Free Colliers was guest speaker at last weekend’s ceremony.
He said: “Forty men died leaving behind 28 widows, five mothers, two guardians and 67 children as well as the 26 men who were rescued and still in need both physically and mentally.
“Fred Johnston, who was the owner of The Falkirk Herald at the time, and my predecessor Provost Muirhead started the Redding Pit disaster fund.
“The fund itself raised £59,242.60 and was distributed to the widows and children of the men. If you put that into a computer and work it out into today’s moneyhat is almost £1.8 million which shows you the level of support the miners had and the magnitude of the disaster.”
Rhona Fairgrieve’s great grandfather Alex Hamilton was one of the 40 men who perished on September 25, 1923. Her grandmother was made an orphan that day following his death.
She said: “I’ve lived in Wallacestone for the last 24 years and try to come to the ceremony every year. I think it’s important to do so. It’s important for the communities to remember the disaster.”